There are a few ways you can save money while still running your HVAC system — just by playing the peak hours of energy use to your advantage.
What Are Peak Hours?
Peak hours are the hours that your electric company gets the most demand. It's typically the time of day when businesses and homes are simultaneously running AC, heat, computers, electronics, and appliances. This puts a big strain on the electric supply. To help continue providing uninterrupted service during these hours, many electric companies charge you extra. Depending upon where you live, the company you use, and whether it's your home or your business that's being billed, you may pay a higher rate per kilowatt, or you may get a "demand charge," which can be anything from a few pennies to $20 per extra kilowatt.
How Can You Use Peak Hours to Your Advantage?
While peak hour energy use translates to a higher rate, off-peak energy usage costs less — in fact, some electric companies even offer rebates and monetary incentives for you to use the bulk of your electricity during off-peak times rather than during peak hours.
For other appliances this may mean waiting to run them during off-peak times. For your HVAC unit, it means using it smartly and in different ways during peak hours.
Find Out Your Peak Hours
The first step in using electricity intelligently is to call your electric company and find out the following:
· When are the peak and off-peak hours in your area?
· What is the rate difference between the two?
· Do they offer rebates or other incentives if you lower your peak usage below a certain point?
· Will you be charged extra if your load goes above a certain point during peak hours?
Once you have this information, you'll have a better sense of how you can lower your energy bills.
Lower Your HVAC Use
The most obvious way to save on energy costs is to eliminate as much energy use as possible during peak hours. Running the washing machine and dryer or dishwasher during off-peak hours, for example, is one way to lower your energy bill.
Of course it isn't always possible to run your AC and heating systems only during off-peak hours. Therefore, you need to change the way you use them during those hours. A few ways of doing this include:
· Making incremental changes in the temperature set by your thermostat. Most people feel comfortable at temperatures below 70 degrees in winter and above 75 in summer; raise or lower the temperature 1 degree at a time during peak hours until you've managed to lower your energy usage during this time.
· Installing a power manager. Some electric companies offer power managers that can be placed on your AC or HVAC unit. Power managers automatically detect peak or off-peak hours and will shut your system off for 1/2 hour every hour to lower your energy use during these times. Many companies that offer this system also offer credits to home and business owners that use them, which can lower your monthly bills even more.
· Acting like a power manager. Even if your electric company doesn't offer power managers, you can operate your system as if they do. Shut off your AC or heat for 1/2 an hour at a time during peak hours to lower your drain on the system. 1/2 an hour isn't usually enough to cause temperatures to change too dramatically, which can make the unit work harder to compensate once it's turned back on.
Make It Work for You
Getting acquainted with peak and off-peak hours can make a big difference in your energy bill. Call your electric company today to find out what you could be saving and start pocketing the difference.
Stefanie Miles is a writer for Precision Air & Heating, a leading ac repair company in Phoenix, Arizona. She enjoys home improvement and typically does a project or two a week at her home.